Annealing is a must know must have skill. And probably best learned
in the dark. And unless you do it in an oven where temps can be
reached and held with some accuracy the torch is the tool for you.
Since I work a lot with 10 GA. Sterling wire I’ll describe my
process. The first thing I do if I am ordering any metal from a
supplier like Rio or Hoover and Strong I order it dead soft. That
way I don’t have to anneal it to immediately work it on the bench. I
don’t burn any gas. And if there is an add on charge I have never
If I have to anneal further I use a clean fire brick and a medium
flame on my Presto lite torch #3 tip. To me a medium flame is a
solid flame but a quiet flame. If the flame is strong but noisy, an
angry sound, it is way to hot. You’ll melt the outside of the wire
before you bring the inside of the metal up to annealing temp.
Books tell to use a Bushy or Brushy flame, I don’t know what that
is. I tend to go by sound.
Acetylene is pretty hot and there is a learning curve. Add oxygen to
the mix and even propane has some serious heat. I often use just a
basic propane canister torch with a trigger igniter at the bench
just for annealing.
Set your flame. Turn off the lights and steadily play the flame
along your work. A dull read is the best way to describe the color
you are looking for. I try to get to the color of a "Fireball"
cinnamon candy before I stop and let the color fade away in the dark
before I quench it in pickle. The color could be hotter but that’s
the color I am accustom to and I think once you achieve a color you
can create consistently you are most of the way there. Consistency
is as important as is color is as an indicator of reaching a working
condition in the metal. The whole piece has to be the same color so
the metal is normalized to the same degree over its length.
Otherwise you will have spots of greater softness than others on you
If you have a copy of The Complete Metal Smith read Tim’s
description of annealing.
This is one of those places that only experience and time on task
will get you there.